Episode 414 – CEO Secrets with Dougal Shaw

Dougal ShawJournalism is changing, which means journalists have to change too. And a great example of this is the way that BBC reporter Dougal Shaw has reinvented his own role from pure video journalism, transforming what started as corridor conversations with business leaders who happened to be visiting the BBC into a high-profile series that runs on rolling news channels, on social media, in radio and podcast formats, and now as a book.

It’s a story of intrapreneurship, which is fitting for a series that draws out lessons in both entrepreneurship and corporate leadership from visionary leaders who are often willing to be more vulnerable away from the finance and figures that are the focus of their more traditional BBC interviews. From the power of storytelling to the psychology of interviewing, there’s lots of great stuff here for business book writers, and there’s pure gold from Dougal’s own experience of breaking down the book into writable parts and discovering the interconnections and patterns in the material. 

Not only CEO secrets, but journalistic and writing secrets too. You’re welcome. 

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VIDEO

The Neurodiversity Edge site: www.theneurodiversityedge.com

Dougal on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dougal-shaw/

Alison on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/the-alison-jones/

The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge: http://proposalchallenge.com/

The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Substack: https://extraordinarybusinessbooks.substack.com/

The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/

Alison Jones: I’m here today with Dougal Shaw, who is a business reporter for BBC News, where he’s covered business and tech stories for nearly a decade. He set up the entrepreneurship video advice series CEO Secrets for the BBC in 2015, containing practical advice and inspiration from business leaders. And the videos run on the BBC’s rolling news channels, the BBC News website, and social media accounts. The series now also runs in a radio and podcast format for BBC World Service, and he’s turned it into a book of the same name with Bloomsbury Business.

So first of all, welcome, Dougal.

Dougal Shaw: Thank you, nice to be here.

Alison Jones: Great to have you. And I think you have all the formats there, don’t you?

Dougal Shaw: Yes, yes, we cover everything. It started out just as a sort of digital speciality product, mainly the idea being that it would be for social media, for sort of Instagram and Facebook, the series, but then it’s just kind of evolved out from there and slowly, yes, taking on every kind of platform going really.

Alison Jones: And that is fascinating, isn’t it? Because we’re used to BBC, when I was growing up, BBC did big set pieces. It was broadcast media. It was, you knew exactly what you meant by BBC programme. I mean, the proliferation of ways in which the BBC gets its content out now are astonishing, and you’ve really leapt on that, haven’t you? What was the genesis of this?

Dougal Shaw: Well you’re right about the stuff having to be everywhere because really to be a journalist now you kind of have to be multi platform. So the kind of barriers have gone down where in the past you might think I’m a radio specialist. I’m TV or you know at the BBC you couldn’t even be a written journalist 20 years ago now you can because of the the online website.

But there were kind of silos between things, but now the technology has changed so much and the expectations that every time you do a story, I was saying the other day, you can almost, you love the story at the beginning, but you’re almost tired of it at the end because you’ve done the kind of 12th version of it.

You’ve done the TikTok version, the Instagram version, the TV version, you’ve got to serve all these platforms. Which I love it because I’m a creative and I see that as a very positive thing. But when CEO Secrets started, it was back in 2015, and as I said, the idea then was they wanted new digital formats. And actually it came about through a job interview.

And like so many businesses and maybe even books as well, it was kind of adversity that created the opportunity. Because my job was under threat in 2015 and I was a bit worried about what I would do next. I was working as a technology video journalist doing technology stories and I loved it, but they were going to close that role.

But then they advertised this one in the business team. Saying we need someone to come up with new formats for things like Instagram, reach young audiences, you know, Facebook was big at the time as well, so videos for Facebook. You can apply for this role. So I applied for it thinking, I really want this job, the stakes are high.

And I brainstormed and one of the ideas I had was for the CEO Secrets series, and the idea was that I’d been sitting in the newsroom so I knew that the business team… every day basically, we’d have very big, well known CEOs coming in and it would be like kind of star spotting because you’d go, oh, there’s Sir James Dyson or there’s, you know, isn’t that the CEO of Sainsbury’s I think over there. They would come in to do live TV interviews about their latest quarterly results or share holder meeting announcements and stuff, so I thought wow, that’s amazing access to this human capital we have here, these people coming in, but what more can we do with it?

Could we film something which is a bit more kind of personal, off the cuff advice, by just grabbing them by virtue of the fact that they’re here in person? And so that was the idea I pitched at the interview. They really liked it. I got the job and day one, I just started making it because I was already a multi platform journalist who could film and edit and do all the practical stuff myself.

Alison Jones: It’s brilliant. You have just basically described the sort of the holy trinity of entrepreneurialism. It’s the sort of being up against it, having access to the resources that you have and spotting the opportunity there, and having the skill set to bring to that to do something nobody else can do. I mean, it’s entrepreneurial, right? Intrapreneurial, perhaps.

Dougal Shaw: And yes, within an organization, I think you call it Intrapreneurial, which… the BBC is its own kind of little world, but it is actually quite competitive and starting a series and trying to build it up is just like starting a business and you’ve got to do things like make your prototype, improve it, show it to people, find stakeholders who will support you, iterate, all these things are the same within that ecosystem.

But the starting point was, yes, adversity, thinking, hang on, the status quo can’t continue, my job’s going, I need to apply for something else, that that moment of failure or adversity can almost provide the kind of activation energy you need to start something new.

Alison Jones: Which is a really profound point. And I think recognized by pretty much every entrepreneur, you need a galvanizing event, don’t you? It’s like the hero’s journey. There’s the inciting event. And the question that you had, just tell us a little bit about… I mean, such a simple question. And I can just imagine that the way in which it’s received is so different to perhaps a more adversarial, tell us about the results. What does this mean about your policy for, you know, all that kind of stuff.

So what do you ask them and how does that work when they’re answering it?

Dougal Shaw: Well, it has evolved over time, but I suppose there’s always the core question which we’re going to ask the person, which is, what’s the advice you wish you had starting out? Or, we evolved it slightly into: Can you tell us a short anecdote, story, that summarizes a kind of lightbulb moment you had in business?

Just because stories are very powerful ways to convey advice. In the early days of the series when nobody knew about it and we were literally collaring people, and sometimes without much warning, and saying, would you do this? And because it is quite a positive thing to do and they didn’t feel they were being ambushed it was, yes, they often would do it, but I really wouldn’t have very much time with them and to be honest, looking back at the early ones, they did give off the cuff answers, which were genuine answers, but over time I now spend at least an hour with the CEO and it’s a longer interview and so I think you can coax more details and get more profound information out of them.

But still, I still ask them even now, those core simple questions and sometimes that yields the core bit of advice that’s going to be in the video or the writeup that we do from it or the radio. But sometimes it happens that you actually have to dig quite deep because when you first say to someone, you know, if you do ambush them about what’s the advice you wish you had starting out, you tend to get the same things, which is follow your passion, it’s all about the team you build around you and be obsessed with your product and the customer. But I mean, and just because everyone says it, that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Alison Jones: It doesn’t mean it’s not true, but it’s not a great series if everybody’s saying the same thing. yes, yes.

Dougal Shaw: It’s a very short run series. So now what I do is, you know, I like to see it as a bit of a kind of psychologist meeting where you really have a long conversation with the person, ask them lots of open questions, let them tell their story.

And I always think to myself, I’m trying to find what’s unique about their business journey, their background, what’s unique, but trying to find something from that, which is universal so that everybody will find it interesting on some level. So the two ‘U’s.

Alison Jones: Interesting. And that’s the perfect story, isn’t it? I mean, I’m thinking about this from the perspective of a business book writer as well, because it’s exactly what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to impart advice that will be useful for, well, I won’t say anybody, but certainly all the readers that you’re targeting with this book. The vehicle for that is typically a story or an experience or it’s an exemplar of how that works out. So one without the other is a bit lame.

Dougal Shaw: I mean the range of advice we’ve got in the interviews is vast and it’s interesting as well. You also know how well they perform because when they go on the BBC News website, we have very good analytics, you know what’s being clicked, how long people are staying of a story, all that kind of stuff, which obviously you don’t get with a paper book.

But the ones that tend to do best are the ones where you’ve, partly down to you as a journalist, if you’ve picked out a good headline and a good sell and a good picture and all the rest of it. But usually it’s advice that isn’t too businessy. It’ll almost never say the word business, in fact, in the headline, that’s quite a turnoff, but it will be more kind of like life advice, or at least advice that wouldn’t just apply to an entrepreneur, but also to someone who’s, say, ambitious at work.

Because many of us are employees, if not, you know, business owners. So those are the general ones.

Alison Jones: And that was really interesting as to the way you almost identified different types of interviewee. So you noticed a difference between entrepreneurs and leaders in corporates and also males and females.

Just tell us a little bit more about that because I thought it was fascinating.

Dougal Shaw: This is kind of how the idea for a book came about, because obviously, I didn’t think it would ever be a book at the beginning. It wasn’t even on my mind. But as the, when the series lasted for a long time, and we’ve probably got into, by about 2018, we’re three years into it and it’s still going.

You’ve done enough of them that you start to notice patterns in the people, rather than just being individual stories. And often as a journalist, you can be a bit too focused on individual stories and each one is an island and you move on to the next one. But I was always thinking about the series, you know, dwelling on it because I’m obviously making the series and passionate about it and it’s on my mind.

And I did start to just think, well, I do see all these things from this panoramic view I’ve got from seeing this parade of people and gender being one of them and definitely the difference between the people who are founders and the people who’ve worked their way up the corporate ladder, who I call the corporate climbers.

 And basically, in essence, the corporate, the people who founded their own company would tend be a bit more extrovert, be open to improvisation, and I’m noticing that behind the scenes as the person who’s conducting the videos and filming them, because it will be in things, just their attitude to the recording process.

Like, you know, you might have the fundamental choice, where are we going to film this? And I remember this happened a few times. You might have the choice between a striking backdrop in their office, but there’s a risk of it being noisy or distractions coming.

So maybe, do we compromise? Do we go to the more boring room where it’s quiet?

The founder entrepreneur is far more likely to be, no, no, we just go for it. And if I have to stop, we go again. Whereas the corporate climber is a bit more careful. And just in so many small things that manifested itself, where there was one time at a park somewhere with an entrepreneur and I was thinking, because I’m quite a careful person, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to park in this space, but the kind of founder’s like, nah, you can just park there. Come on, we’ll deal with it if it happens. Move on. All these small things.

Another big moment actually was someone who is, I’ve forgotten which company he was, but he was someone who’s a corporate climber, head of a very big consumer high street brand.

And he was giving his advice and I thought he was delivering it very well. And then he kind of stopped and he said, Oh no, wait, no, no, that’s not the words I was meant to use. Hang on, hang on. And he pulled out a script and he’d actually written out exactly what he wanted to say and he was basically kind of performing what he’d rehearsed.

So, and I think what you find with the corporate climbers who’ve moved up the companies is that they treat everything, every test as a kind of interview because, and they have that constant feeling that they’re being assessed, that maybe they’re not, I don’t know, worthy of the role of head of the company because they didn’t found it. Whereas the founder entrepreneur has never had an interview for their role or never had any interview at the company because he or she has run it from the outset and it’s their kind of creation.

So I think they have a different attitude and they care a bit less about what people around them think.

Alison Jones: That’s so fascinating. So as a founder, you can’t get it wrong because it’s your company, whatever you say is right because it’s your company and there’s that kind of identification.

I never thought about that.

Dougal Shaw: I was kind of a bit more drawn to those personalities, but myself, I’m probably a bit more similar to the analytical, careful, climber person, but maybe, you know, opposites attract.

So maybe that’s why I found the other one more interesting, but in terms…

Alison Jones: …fascinating insight…

Dougal Shaw: …but gender is the other big one that I think struck me after that.

And that, there was one in particular where it happened. We, oh yes, I did an interview with a woman called Alex Depledge, who is an entrepreneur and she set up, her startup was a sort of domestic cleaning service, a platform to book domestic cleaners and she ended up selling it for several million pounds, exiting and did very well but when I went to interview her, I was like I’m behind the camera because I go myself just to do these things but I’m filming it and asking the questions and she was like up and running and talking about her story and her advice and she said Oh, yes, I just found out that I’d got funding from the same people that backed Facebook.

It was a huge moment, such a great time for the company, but I was in a ball on the floor, you know, rolling around in tears saying, I don’t know how to be a CEO. I don’t know how to be a CEO. And her husband found her that way. And when she was saying all this, I was kind of like, I forgot I was recording. I was just like listening to the person on a human level, but it was only afterwards that I thought I just would never expect someone to reveal that kind of vulnerability. But in general, I found that, and there are exceptions, everyone’s different of course, but there was a trend for the female entrepreneurs to be a bit more open to tell personal stories and to share moments of vulnerability and how they overcame them in a very inspiring way.

And I would say that was their superpower because they were extremely engaging, brilliant interviews.

Alison Jones: And when I read that, I, like you, I remember sort of taking an intake of breath and just the rawness of it, but also the courage to share that because actually when you have those three in the morning moments, they normally are, aren’t they? You think you’re alone. You think nobody else ever goes through this.

And to hear a successful entrepreneur own that, I think is incredibly powerful.

Dougal Shaw: Yes and hopefully it normalizes it and removes any stigma from it. And you’re a braver, a better leader for doing that, I think.

Alison Jones: Yes, totally. I want to talk about writing as well, Dougal, because obviously, you know, we talked right at the beginning about the kind of the multi platform, multi format way that this has evolved. And you aren’t primarily a writer.

You’re primarily a broadcast journalist. So what, I guess, what role does writing play in your life. Do you find it enjoyable? What does it do for you that other forms don’t?

Dougal Shaw: I was listening to a, it was either a podcast or a radio actually, maybe even you are on it, now I think about it, a panel. But it wasn’t you that said it, but someone said writing is the best method of thinking ever devised.

Alison Jones: Yes.

Dougal Shaw: And I think when I heard that, I thought, wow, that I a hundred percent agree with that.

My way of….

Alison Jones: Margaret Heffernan, wasn’t it? It was on Radio 4. We were doing a…

Dougal Shaw: I think you were on with her, yes, so that’s funny it’s come up now, but yes, I think it’s almost like you’re a sculptor and you’re trying to sort of chisel away at your ideas to get them right. And my way of doing it is by writing and rewriting and rewriting and that’s how I kind of formulate my thoughts and get new thoughts at the same time.

And as I was saying before, when you’re in a digital newsroom now, it’s kind of an equal split to be honest, my primary role, and the thing that makes me stand out is the fact that I know how to film and make and edit and do the videos, but I probably spend, in terms of my output, an equal amount writing, doing radio, and doing video, and I enjoy all forms for different reasons.

But actually in terms of the impact that you can have online as a journalist at the moment, certainly on the BBC News website, I think, it’s the written stories you do, which are typically about, I don’t know, 500, 600 words for a news story, but maybe up to 1,200 for a longer feature that really have the most impact with the audience.

Alison Jones: So where does the book fit into that for you? What does the book make possible? Or what does it, how does it fit alongside those other forms?

Dougal Shaw: I’ll tell you the way it came about because that partly explains it. Basically, I had wanted to write a book for a long time, and you know, a lot of people have that aspiration. And actually quite a few of my journalist colleagues had started to write books, and that’s been a bit of a trend that more of them have been invited to publish, and have gone on to do quite well.

But I was actually thinking of writing a completely different book. When it comes to making videos, I’m quite passionate about mojo, which is hashtag for mobile journalism. And that means filming on your mobile phone. So this is quite a big thing in the last 10 years. It’s become more and more popular, more possible as the technology’s improved.

So I found some publishers and I thought I’d love to write about this because I love teaching about it as well. So I found some publishers through my journalism contacts and said, what do you think of this idea for a book? How to make viral video hits on your phone. And I had a few coffees with them, with some of the big publishers as well.

And that’s how I learned how publishing works, where it’s a bit like being a journalist. They had that as an idea from me as a collaborator, but they have to convince their colleagues. So they go to commissioning meetings. And so they went off with the idea exactly the same way as a journalist, if I’ve got an idea, I can’t just suddenly give it the green light. I’ve got to persuade my colleagues.

 But the feedback I got on at least two occasions was good enough to take to discussion level, but they didn’t think it had broad enough appeal for them to commit to it as a big idea. And then one thing you quickly realize is that these are business decisions.

And when they have these meetings, I think it’s not just the other publishers. It’s also the finance people, the rights specialists, and they’re making their projections of how much it will sell and all the rest of it. So obviously I was a bit disappointed but I thought I was still carrying on trying to write that book.

And then, it was in the course of those discussions that I spoke to someone from Bloomsbury Business. And he was, you know, he said, well, what other stuff do you do? And, he knew that I did CEO Secrets maybe, we discussed that. And it kind of, the idea just emerged from that. Well, have you thought of turning that into a book?

And then we had…

Alison Jones: …the breadth of appeal.

Dougal Shaw: Yes, obviously they saw it more as a, I mean, I’ve got no idea what calculations they do in the background, but yes, and then it was the time of COVID when I was having those advanced discussions with them.

But the other thing that happened then was I always thought, well, I haven’t really got, I work full time. I don’t have the time to write a book, but when COVID happened and all the lockdowns, all of a sudden I got about an hour and a half to two hours back a day from not commuting. So when it finally got to the point that I was actually, I got, you know, we signed on the line to do the book. I made sure that, the thing I was paranoid about was the due date, sort of, you know, you sign, that you have to hand it in by a certain date. I didn’t want to be caught out and not do it in time.

So I think I asked for a big, quite a big extension because I just wanted to relax about that. In the end, I think I delivered it quite a few months ahead of time because I just broke down this 70,000 word task in a spreadsheet into about 60 different blocks.

And you know, each day, or maybe once every week, you’re ticking off two blocks to say that, yes, here, I had a little column saying, you know, this one’s 2,000 words. This one’s 1,800. And every now and again, I would like tot them up, tot up the total and think, God, how close am I to the 70,000? Because you’re just paranoid about getting there.

And it seems like a big number when you start, but actually adds up quickly. So by breaking it down, that’s how it became possible. And I would do little bits sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening, a couple of times I remember I dropped my daughter off at football, it was raining and while she was training, I just sat in the car and sort of bashed out some words. But as a journalist, I wasn’t daunted by the, you know, having to write, or writer’s block, because one, it wasn’t a detective novel where you’re kind of thinking, Oh my god, what happens next? I need to decide.

It was quite clear what I had to do. I just had to get this information in a manageable form to create this basic anthology from the series.

Alison Jones: And of course you had all the headings and you had the word extents and once you’ve got that it’s just like, I mean, you have to join them together and you have to do your introduction and conclusion. I’m not trivializing it, once you’ve got the breakdown, you’ve got a series of jobs in front of you and you can just get on and do them, can’t you?

Dougal Shaw: Yes, and I found as well you find your own rhythm that, my best time for work is probably the mornings but when it’s like just, you know, executing what you know has to be done, just writing, but my time for like mental breakthroughs might be you know when you’re going to bed or when you suddenly wake up at 4 in the morning. So that’s the time you’ve got a scribble down little notes to remind you for later on.

So you work out your own rhythms and yes, eventually, you know, the word count got there, but I hadn’t obviously done a book before, it was my first. So Bloomsbury were very good with me with that, they explained the procedure, how it probably goes through about three different passes, where you hand it in, you get your initial feedback, and typos and stuff are fixed, but you can still make some structural changes at that point, but the further down the line it goes, the less ability you have to change things.

Alison Jones: Once we’ve done the index, we don’t like to mess around with the pagination.

Dougal Shaw: Yes, luckily I didn’t have to do the index myself or anything like that. But actually the other thing I found that was interesting was, I broke, as I said, I broke the book down to make it manageable for me into these sort of 60 blocks. But what that meant was I was looking at each one quite discreetly, and in a sense it’s an anthology, so that’s kind of understandable. That’s the nature of this particular book.

But it was actually probably only after I’d handed in the first initial, rough draft that I properly sat down and read it from start to finish and thought, hang on, how does this feel if you experience this as a one continuous book? And that was very useful because as I did that, all of a sudden I started making connections I hadn’t realized before.

So I might add things, because you can still, you know, add things at this stage, saying, and what she said there echoes what we learned in chapter one. And it’s all, you know, not many sentences like that, but that helps to weave together this bigger tapestry that makes it feel like a more substantial book.

Alison Jones: And then you’ve got that lovely conclusion at the end that sort of draws out the key themes, which works really well.

Dougal Shaw: Yes.

Alison Jones: I’m really keen to get your best tip. You’ve actually given us some really practical, helpful you know, insight into how you did it that other people will be able to absolutely lift and use themselves.

But if I was to say to you, what’s your single best tip for somebody just starting out on this journey, what would you say to them?

Dougal Shaw: So I think this comes after because what I’ve talked about so far is writing the book, but obviously the big thing is what happens afterwards, you’re interested in the book, how do you make other people interested in it? And even though in my case, I had a bit of an advantage because even though my name as an author wasn’t known, it was done as a BBC series, so it has like the BBC logo on it.

That helps a little bit, but it doesn’t, you know, you’re not going to have big huge displays in Amazon, in you know, Waterstones, or in front page in Amazon and stuff like that. You’re one of so many books that are released at any given day. So, you have to be very sort of humble and realize you’re going to have to work and be proactive perhaps especially for a business book.

But the good news I found is that you have to be proactive and deliberate and again a bit of an entrepreneur, I suppose, it’s a bit like I’d say being a comedian who’s trying to build their reputation on the comedy circuit, as a business writer, but instead of the comedy clubs you’ve got this circuit of entrepreneurship clubs, co-working spaces. There’s thousands of these little organizations around the UK and you have to build a list, find out who your target audience is, approach these people. They love it when people come to give talks. It’s good for them as well. And you need to go and meet people face to face.

Some, you can do it online ones as well. I mean they can be effective but it’s hard to know how that translates into sales. But I was surprised as a first time author that when I went to go and do a talk people really want to see you at the end, they want to come up and chat to you. And they want to buy a book and they want you to sign it and I felt very sort of, I don’t know, a bit of a diva, you know, I’m not signing a book. It feels a bit silly doing it, but you realize that for people it’s just personalizing the object and they want to show they’ve met you. And it’s quite a nice thing to do.

So I would definitely recommend thinking about the afterlife of the book and going out and making sure, practice if you don’t feel you’re good at it, speaking about the book, but you should be passionate about it if you’ve written the book, but be prepared to go out and speak and sell your ideas.

Alison Jones: Brilliant, what a great tip, thank you. And you’re right, a lot of people respond to that, thinking about the writing of the book, but that’s only, that’s like phase one. It just sinks into obscurity if you don’t put phase two into action.

Dougal Shaw: Yes, that’s when the work really starts, once it’s out.

Alison Jones: Yes, right. And because writing it, I mean, it’s hard work, but it’s really simple in some ways. It’s not easy, but it’s fairly simple.

But, oh my goodness, the marketing, much more complicated.

I’m going to ask you for a recommendation as well. You’re not allowed to recommend CEO Secrets. Hopefully we’ve done that. What book have you read recently or would you recommend that anybody listening should read, if they haven’t already?

Dougal Shaw: I’ve got a book to recommend, but before that I’ve got a sort of technique, which people are probably doing this already, but anyway, I’ll just say it because this has kind of been my life. But I recently found that I had to catch up on quite a few classic business books because I wasn’t a massive reader of the genre before I wrote one, but I’ve kind of been brushing up since.

But I found that listening to them as audio books is for some reason works very well for business books. So now whenever I go out jogging, I like doing long, slow jogs. I will listen to business books and I just read Good to Great, which is a classic, but I hadn’t got around to reading it. And I hadn’t realized that a lot of the music platforms were on, in my case, Spotify, but there’s lots of other ones.

If you search up books, it’s amazing the business books on there. And I’ve compiled a massive list that, you know, if I jog while listening to them all I’ll have gone all around the UK several times probably

But for me, that’s a good way to digest business books. So that’s my kind of general little tip, if you’re not doing it already.

Alison Jones: And hot tip, you can also set the speed to 1. 2, which enables you to get through more. I find them very slow.

Dougal Shaw: Yes, I found that with Good to Great to be honest because it’s great to hear it in the author’s own voice but it made me realize, I thought I was a slow reader but it’s so slow when you listen to read it out.

Alison Jones: You can crank up the pace.

Dougal Shaw: The book I want to recommend is actually someone I met on the CEO Secret series. I’m going to hold it, I’ve actually got it here the book, I don’t know if you, will that look backwards when I hold it up?

Alison Jones: No, that’s absolutely fine. Brilliant. If you’re looking on video, you can see this now, but go and tell us about it for those on audio.

Dougal Shaw: And also again for the audio people, if you were able to see it you’d see there’s so many little kind of folds I put in the book. Because there’s things in it I thought, oh, that’s great. I want to go back and, you know, read that again. So it is a book called Skin in the Game by Jane Wurwand.

She is a British entrepreneur born and raised in Scotland who went on to found Dermalogica, which is a very famous global skincare brand that you’ll, you know, see in Boots and all the other shops out there. She’s sold it, but she’s the founder of it. And the reason I really like this book is there are some business books where you can kind of tell that it’s either been ghost written or the person has had a lot of help and it’s very digestible, but the words can be quite bland and the story’s quite bland.

In her book, and I mean this in a respectful way, it’s obviously written by her. It feels really genuine, raw, passionate, and there are some bits where I think that structure is a bit funny, I wonder why she did it that way, but that’s how she wanted to do it, you can tell. And it’s just the sort of honesty, maybe this comes back to her being, you know, an entrepreneur and not a corporate climber.

She built the business herself, but the honesty of her stories is quite arresting. And again, it’s about the small little moments she describes. So if you don’t know her, she grew up in Scotland, at a very young age, her and her sisters lost her father, who died suddenly. So she was raised just by her mother in a lot of financial adversity. And that taught her resilience at an early age.

She talks as well about moving to South Africa in her, I think, late teens, early twenties and a failed relationship and all the problems from that. And then she moves to California with a green card and about a thousand dollars in her bank account. And she explains how she grew the business from nothing to this multimillion pound operation.

But just to take out a couple of moments from it that stayed with me as a reader of the book. A lot of times as a entrepreneur, we’re told you know, what’s your passion, follow your passion, but how do you actually think, not everyone knows what their passion is, but she says something very interesting in the book, which is, think about what fascinated you between about the ages of nine and 11, I think it is, so not even, you know, you wouldn’t even call it a hobby at that age. A hobby is what an adult calls something that you don’t make money from, but what did you naturally gravitate towards? And because that’s before the exam machine hits you at school or you have expectations from your parents and all the rest of it.

What did you just naturally love doing? And she says for her, it was making facials, playing with dolls, doing kind of beauty and cosmetic treatment type stuff, which is what she went on to specialize in. She talks about a friend who used to make photo journals and cut things out and make albums and became a photographer and a journalist.

If I think of myself, like I loved that age computers and my home computer and trying to write little software programs. And a lot of the journalism I do has been about using technology. So actually, I don’t know, do you have something that you did between that age?

Alison Jones: I just remember reading all the time. So it’s not actually a huge surprise that I went on to become a publisher and a writer. So I was just thinking that, yes, how interesting.

Kind of wish I’d been, I don’t know, surfing or something that might be a little bit more interesting. But yes, no, I absolutely just put me in a book and let me be and I’ll be perfectly happy here for the next four hours.

Dougal Shaw: Well, you’re in the perfect vocation. So I thought that was very interesting.

And then the other thing she said that I thought was very moving and nice little anecdote was when she was in South Africa, working her way up in the salons, and she started just like sweeping the hairs on the floor and doing the most menial tasks, and then she would do some facials and things like that.

She says she was working one day, and she was given a repeat client who was a widow, who was, I don’t know, maybe in her 70s or 80s, who used to come and she would do her facial I think it was like once a week or once a fortnight or something. But she got the impression that this woman didn’t have very much money.

And I think, this is how I recall the story, but she said something like to the woman, you know, are you sure you want to come this often? It must be expensive. You could maybe come just once a month or something. And the woman said, Oh, but you know, you don’t understand. This is the one time I have any human contact with anyone, that somebody touches me.

And that’s when she realized that the world of beauty and cosmetics and all these things, isn’t just about appearance. It’s about often quite an emotional connection. And that’s kind of helped her to build her business. So I like all these little insights in business books.

Alison Jones: Beautiful and yes, very moving. Thank you. I didn’t know the book and I will go and seek it out. Thank you.

And Dougal, if you want to find you and find out more about you, I know you’re, this is going to be going out the 27th of May 2024, and that’s quite an interesting time for you, isn’t it? So do you want to give us any insights into where we might be able to hook up with you?

Dougal Shaw: Yes, well it’s an interesting time because I’ll be leaving the BBC at that point. And I’ve been there for like coming up to 20 years, quite a long time. And that’s one reason why, I’m pleased in a way looking back, that CEO Secrets got turned into a book because it’s not the only thing I’ve done while at the BBC, but it’s one of my, I suppose, kind of an achievement there and doing a book from it, just kind of solidifies it a bit and sort of crowns it, even though it began as a digital idea.

But the best way to find me is probably these days on LinkedIn. That’s where I like to hang out most. So you can find me Dougal. I think I’m the only Dougal Shaw. One of the benefits of having a rare name

Alison Jones: Scottish name.

Dougal Shaw: Yes. yes. I’m a little bit on Twitter and the other ones, but mainly it’s LinkedIn. That’s the best place for me.

Alison Jones: Brilliant. Well, I’ll hunt you down and I’ll put that link up on the show notes at extraordinarybusinessbooks.com.

And what a pleasure talking to you, to find out the genesis of the series and all the ways in which you’ve developed it has been really fascinating. Thank you.

Dougal Shaw: Thank you.

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